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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 13, 2004
CONTACT: James F. Jorkasky
Executive Director
240-221-2905
jamesj@eyeresearch.org

NAEVR Calls for $711 Million Funding for the NEI in FY2005; Cites NEI Research Accomplishments and Opportunities

(Washington DC.) Today, the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR), on behalf of the eye and vision research community, called on Congress to fund the National Eye Institute (NEI) in Fiscal Year (FY) 2005 at $711 million-an 8% increase over FY2004. The President's budget currently proposes an FY2005 NEI funding increase of 2.9% to $672 million.

To support NAEVR's call for additional funding, it has released a report entitled Accomplishments and Opportunities at the NEI, which summarizes NEI research on the most common and costly eye disease and vision impairment conditions over the past five years and details the important research that still needs to be done to result in effective therapies and treatments. Examples include:

  • An NEI clinical trial found that zinc and three antioxidant vitamins (Vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene) are effective in reducing vision loss in people at risk for developing Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of legal blindness in older age Americans. More than 1.6 million Americans over age 60 have AMD, and another 30 million over age 40 are at risk of developing the disease.

  • NEI-sponsored clinical trials have greatly improved treatment for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a blinding complication in low weight, premature infants. As a result, the 3,000 infants affected each year with this condition can be expected to experience 70-80 years of productive "sighted" lives.

"Promising discoveries from NEI-sponsored basic and translational research are identifying the causes of eye disease and vision impairment, as well as therapies to treat and even mitigate or prevent the onset of eye disease," stated NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky in releasing the report, which notes that the NEI advances come at a time when eye disease -especially in older age Americans-has become a fast-growing but little known epidemic that threatens to further strain federal resources. "Given the pressures on Congress to control spending, funding eye and vision research now is cost-effective because it can reduce and potentially prevent expenditures to the Medicare and Medicaid programs."

Funding NEI at $711 million would complete the doubling of the NEI's budget since FY1998 and bring it into parity with the budget-doubling that occurred at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) overall and within several Institutes from FY1998-FY2003. Currently, NEI is in the bottom one-third of all Institutes in terms of meeting its budget-doubling goal.

The National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) is a non-profit advocacy coalition comprised of nearly 50 professional, consumer, and industry organizations involved in eye and vision research. NAEVR's goal is to achieve the best vision for all Americans through advocacy and public education for eye and vision research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Eye Institute (NEI), and other federal research entities. Visit NAEVR's Web site at www.eyeresearch.org.